Monday, November 28, 2011

Playing guitar in a trio

For the first time tonight I tried playing in a trio with electric bass and drums. Yikes, is it hard!

The classic jazz trio is piano/bass drums. A piano player has ten fingers with the same basic function - to hit notes - and the nature of the instrument means they can play rich harmonic accompaniment while also playing lines. But even the most amazing adept guitar players are limited by the nature of the instrument to six notes and the separate and different function of the hands (five fingers of one hand fretting notes and the five fingers on the other hand striking them to make them sound).(Of course I'm referring to standard 6-string guitars played in more-or-less standard ways.) So a guitarist in a trio has to kind of pretend a bit to suggest musically what a piano player can do pretty readily. The best ones are adept at breaking parts down in such as way as to give the impression that there is harmony going on all the time while in fact they are alternating between playing lines and playing chords. It's a kind of aural sleight of hand.

I am not even in the Little Leagues when it comes to his sort of playing and I was pretty chastened by the experience, but it wasn't a total failure, and I think it will be fun challenge to continue to try to play like this. Conclusion: I must be more than a little insane.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Upcoming shows

I'm excited about the first three months of 2012:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ruth Davies' Blues Night review

The latest edition of the Golden Gate Blues Society newsletter (Issue #11, October 2011) has a review I wrote about the Ruth Davies' Blues Night concert I saw this past summer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Autumn harmony

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!  - Percy Bysshe Shelley
Here it is a week before Thanksgiving already. Let me take a few minutes to see if I can sort out what's happened in my musical life since my last post... jeesh, this gets harder and harder every day I age...

September and October saw a little bit of SNUG activity. First up was a private event at the Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae. A stripped-down lineup - SiBon, Ross, and I - crammed into a ludicrously cramped space and played a very short set and got fed some incredible food. Next up was a very fun  outdoor brunchtime gig at the Main Street Coffee Roasting Company in Redwood City. We went over well and hope to be back there again when the weather returns to the appropriate temperature. Finally, we played on a Saturday night at a funky bar in San Mateo, Moon's Family Sports Pub (I think the word "family" in the title means the pub is owned/operated by Moon's family, not that it's a family sports pub to take your kids to for a meal and a few brewskis). This time we had a fill-in rhythm section, Alvin Joseph on bass and an old musical colleague of SiBon's, Rick Bailey on drums. We went over well and I suspect might be back there again soon.

In October I sat in for several songs with Stan Erhart's band at the American Legion Hall in Princeton-by-the-Sea, right next door to the OPL, long-time site of Stan's Sunday night jam which I used to frequent when it was still happening. Then in mid-November I played a set with my friend's band Blue Tuesday at McGovern's Bar in San Mateo, an evening that was made noteworthy by the presence of the awesome Berkeley-based guitarist Garth Webber sitting in a later set. It would have been great to have had a chance to play with Garth again (we jammed once or twice a while back at Stan Erhart's OPL jam), but it was wonderful just to be able to watch and listen to him.

I've continued to attend the Club Fox jam on Wednesday nights in Redwood City, but much less frequently. I used to go probably 4 out of 5 times, now I head down there probably once a month or so. My original plan was to switch it up and go to some of the other local jams in between, especially a couple of jazz jams, but I haven't seemed to have been able to do that quite yet.

Concert-wise, I saw a couple of great shows. In October, at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, there was a King Crimson-centric performance titled Two of a Perfect Trio - Adrian Belew's Power Trio and Tony Levin's Stick Men. Belew and Levin, along with Stick Men drummer Pat Mastelloto, were (are?) members of King Crimson, and the whimsical name for the tour is wordplay on the title of a Belew song and Crimson album, Three of a Perfect Pair. Each trio performed a set of mostly their own originals. Then Belew, Levin, and Mastelloto came out and performed a couple of King Crimson songs. Finally the remaining members of the two trios (touch guitarist Markus Reuter from Stick Men, and bassist Julie Slick and drummer Tobias Ralph from Belew's Power Trio) came out and joined the trio of Crimalums for a pulverizing set of Crimson material.

Then, on Halloween night, at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, I saw Jeff Beck. It was my ninth time seeing him (a review of the previous show in 2009 and a list of all the other times I've seen him is detailed in this blog post). This time his band still had Jason Rebello on keyboards, but the bass and drum chairs were filled by Rhonda Smith and Narada Michael Walden. The set list had a fair amount of overlap from the 2009 show, with the addition of several tunes from Beck's latest studio recording Emotion and Commotion and a couple of new covers added since then.

Not much I can say about Jeff Beck that hasn't been said, so I'll leave it at this - when he comes back next year (with a new studio album, apparently, and a tour with his new trio with Rhonda Smith and drummer Veronica Bellino), I'll be getting tickets if he's anywhere within a couple of hundred miles...